NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: A Tale Of Two At Stewart-Haas, Handcuffs, And A Budding Rivalry

Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each Monday, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!

Sprint Cup: The Other New Driver At Stewart-Haas… Headed In The Other Direction — Well, that’s not the way to start a new season with a new team. Sure, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex, Jr., and AJ Allmendinger have not exactly blasted to the top of the standings to prove their worth. That’s not the driver who has to be the most frustrated, however. Kurt Busch, who has done a tremendous job rehabilitating his image must be feeling his blood boil after a 39th-place finish at Phoenix.

Will Kurt Busch lose his cool, or are the first two races growing pains?
Will Kurt Busch lose his cool, or are the first two races growing pains?

Add in the fact that Busch finished in 21st at the Daytona 500 and it seems like an auspicious beginning for a driver for whom many held high expectations. There are still a lot of races left, and Busch, with excellent equipment, should be able to get things going. Still, the early results show that it might be more of a struggle than we thought. Good thing, with the new Chase requirements, just one win might do the trick. P. Huston Ladner

Nationwide: Kyle’s Quest For Lower Series Perfection — So far, three races have been run inNASCAR’s Nationwide and Truck Series divisions this season. Kyle Busch has won two of them, finishing fourth in the other to total a scintillating average of 2.0. Whether it’s taking candy from a baby or simply a driving style that relates to these cars, Mr. Busch is set on breaking records left and right. Leading 155 laps at Phoenix, he reduced most competition to a mere footnote while leading a top-5 series sweep for Cup Series competitors.

That success, ironically as I wrote about last week is also what threatens to derail their participation going forward. In just the series’ second event of the season, it suffered from a short field as other up-and-comers, along with smaller organizations are struggling to gain traction amidst a sea of “big league” adversaries. It’s a miracle teams like independent driver/owner Jeremy Clements’, TriStar Motorsports and Means Racing can even survive with no TV time, competing against those with ten times the funding. It would be one thing if there was Cup purse money involved, but there’s not; $10,000 for 38th is barely going to cover travel costs, let alone tires, pit crews, and everything else involved in racing. With big teams pushing big drivers and multi-million dollar budgets, the very survival of NASCAR’s minor leagues is at stake.

That means Kyle Busch better live it up while he can. So far, all indications are he will; it looks like 20 race wins, in Nationwide and Trucks is not out of the question. It’s a number that will approach record-setting… and also likely leave Busch on the outside looking in, come 2015 as a victim of his own success. Tom Bowles

NATIONWIDE PHOENIX COVERAGE
McCubbin: Full Breakdown Of Kyle Busch Domination

Short Tracks: Winter Keeps Truckin’ While A Rivalry Continues — The winter races to shake off the rust are winding to an end, but some are still going on. At Cocopah Speedway in California the ASCS Sprint Cars started their season and Rico Abreu started out the season on fire. Abreu grabbed the checkered flag on back-to-back nights and snagged a $10,000 payday with the win in Saturday night. Some fans may not have heard of Abreu before the Chili Bowl this year but he is a very talented driver and friend of Kyle Larson. He could be another superstar in the making if he can continue to win races in national touring series.

In fendered car news, the battle for the Whelen All-American title last year saw Lee Pulliam and Deac McCaskill going toe-to-toe for a good part of the season before Pulliam pulled away. Shortly after the title was secured the two were nose-to-tail at Martinsville during the Virginia is for Racing Lover’s 300 on a late race restart. McCaskill sailed into turn one on the bottom of the track and wiped out many of the contenders for the win. While the two seemed to have put the incident behind them it may not be. In a Late Model race this weekend at Southern National Motorsports Park, McCaskill brake checked Pulliam more than once and then dumped him on a restart. They raced a second race without incident but stay tuned, this rivalry may have lasting ramifications on Pulliam’s attempt to win three straight national titles.Mike Neff

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